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Coronavirus: Jewish Women’s Aid warns of spike in domestic violence during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 07:00 29 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:29 29 April 2020

Domestic abuse has increased since lockdown with people more confined to their homes. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Domestic abuse has increased since lockdown with people more confined to their homes. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Abusive partners are taking advantage of the coronavirus lockdown, experts have warned.

Jewish Women�s Aid CEO Naomi Dickson said the recent rise in homicides was Jewish Women�s Aid CEO Naomi Dickson said the recent rise in homicides was "horrific". Picture: Jewish Women�s Aid

According to the Counting Dead Women project, which records UK women killed by men or where a man is the prime suspect, 14 women were killed in the first three weeks of lockdown – double the average rate for this time of year.

Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, says that calls to its helpline rose by 25 per cent during the week commencing March 30.

Jewish Women’s Aid (JWA) CEO Naomi Dickson told the Ham&High: “What we don’t want is the death toll to increase anymore than it has done.

“What we’ve seen has been absolutely horrific in terms of the domestic homicide rate going through the roof.”

The support agency for Jewish women, based in Finchley, has experienced an increase in demand for services since the crisis began.

Naomi said: “We are seeing more women stuck at home with their perpetrator, leading to an exacerbation of the abuse because neither of them are able to get out of the property, so it’s a bit of a pressure cooker situation.

“What it’s also meaning is that more children are witnessing abuse and that’s causing trauma to the children and also huge concern to the women that we work with, leading to a heightened level of anxiety.”

A new web chat service is due to be launched by JWA in the next few weeks, so that victims can get in touch without being overheard.

The charity is calling on local and central government to make sure funding is available for domestic abuse services to continue offering their life-saving support.

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Camden Council’s support service, Camden Safety Net – open to anyone experiencing domestic violence in the borough – is providing additional support such as more frequent contact with those at risk as well as developing “dynamic safety plans”.

Cllr Angela Mason, responsible for children and families, said: “For some in our borough, home is not a place of safety but a place of fear, and this could get harder during this crisis.

“Our message to you is, you are not alone, and we are here to support you during this even more difficult time.”

Cllr Mason added: “I’d also like to call on our strong communities to think about their neighbours who are in isolation and may be at risk, to provide support and to contact support services where needed.”

Rina Patel is a family law solicitor at Karina Leapman & Co Solicitors, a firm in West Hampstead, and often deals with cases of manipulation and coercion.

She told the Ham&High that, on the basis of increased enquiries received, it is clear that lockdown is intensifying the damage to women in abusive relationships.

One woman who contacted Rina outlined how she had been almost blind to the controlling behaviour of her husband over the years. An argument between them during lockdown resulted in him holding a blade to her throat.

Rina said: “Ordinarily if there is a disagreement or situation, it may be possible to leave and extract yourself. You can’t necessarily do this at the moment.”

Courts are still hearing urgent applications, and for Rina and other family law solicitors, it is a question of “having to be creative and think outside the box as to how to help and support”.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual violence, and need emergency assistance call 999. The line’s Silent Solution function means that if you are unable to speak, press 55 when prompted to be put through to your local police force.

If you are not in immediate danger, you can contact Refuge’s free, 24-hour domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247 or at www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk.

Jewish Women’s Aid can be found at www.jwa.org.uk


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